Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) - Science: Physics

The Science: Physics one-year PGDipEd (QTS) course is structured to develop a deep understanding of the pedagogy and didactics of Physics, grounded in practical competence in classrooms. You will be challenged to develop informed and justified decisions about how you approach your teaching, in order to enable you to continue to develop over your career. You will be expected to develop these insights, although in less depth, across all facets of the sciences. This science: physics teacher training course attracts bursaries of up to £30,000 (depending on qualifications) in line with the government’s priorities to increase the number of Physics teachers.

We offer a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDipEd) rather than a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at the University of Birmingham, as we believe we should provide student teachers with the highest level of teacher training possible. Both qualifications lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) but the PGDipEd also offers the equivalent of 120 credits at Master’s level (out of 180), which makes it a highly rewarding course by combining both theory and practice. Once student teachers have completed their PGDipEd and successfully passed their induction year they may return to study with us on a part-time basis to complete their Masters in Teaching Studies.

If you are a graduate Engineer or Physicist who would prefer to teach Physics with Mathematics, our Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) - Physics with Mathematics course offers this opportunity.

Come along to one of our open evenings to find out more about teacher training opportunities at Birmingham.

The School of Education at the University of Birmingham has a long tradition of delivering teacher training courses. Its teaching has been recently graded as 'outstanding' for the third consecutive time by Ofsted inspectors which reaffirms the University’s status as one of the UK’s leading institutions for excellence in teacher training. The Ofsted report states that “such is the confidence of schools that trainees from the University of Birmingham are of high quality, employment rates for both primary and secondary phases exceed national averages by some margin. Trainees display excellent professional qualities: they are clear that good teaching leads to pupils who are interested in their work, enjoy learning and behave well.”

There is currently high demand for teachers of Science who have expertise in Physics and there are substantial bursaries associated with training in the subject.

The Initial Teacher Education course

The Science: Physics Initial Teacher Education (ITE) course is 36 weeks long of which 24 weeks are spent on placement in a partnership school. There are five phases: Preparation (university and some school-based activities); School Placement 1 (seven week placement in school); Development (university and one week in your second school); School Placement 2 (12 week block placement and some university days); Completion (two further weeks in second school and two weeks in university).

Activity is central to learning how to teach physics and science as you need to learn how to act for yourself. This activity will include a good deal of exemplification of teaching, personal practice and collaborative hard thinking. Through this you will become better at planning lessons, assessing the success of your lessons and managing children within those lessons. You will also find out what children find hard about certain topics, how to vary your approach to minimise these difficulties, and so develop a range of teaching strategies, deploying many different technologies. As an essential part of this you will find yourself coming to grips with the national requirements and strategies, as well as engaging in the pleasure of doing some physics.

You may also be interested in our other two PGDipEd science courses:

Download a summary document for the Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) - Science: Physics course (PDF, 64.5KB)

Information on all our PGDipEd(QTS) secondary subjects may be found on the Postgraduate Diploma Secondary Education (QTS) course page.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between a University PGDipEd/PGCE and School Direct?

There are various routes into teaching. The classic route is to complete a PGCE or PGDipEd offered and managed by a university in partnership with local schools. There is also the School Direct route which is offered and managed by a School Direct Lead School – often a National Teaching School – and its alliance of schools in partnership with a university.

If you are unsure as to whether to choose the University PGDipEd or School Direct route, it might be useful for you to draw up a list of questions to help you explore the different programmes on offer.

What’s the difference between a PGCE and a PGDipEd?

Both the PGCE and the PGDipEd lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

The PGCE is a Post-graduate Certificate which offers 60 credits. We offer this route as a School Direct option. PGCE students have the opportunity to complete additional Masters study following qualification that can lead to a full Masters in Teaching Studies.

The PGDipEd is a Postgraduate Diploma, and so offers more master’s level credits than a PGCE, with 120 credits. You may complete the Masters in Teaching Studies with us once you have completed your induction year through carrying out your own educational research project (60-credit dissertation).  

Is a PGDipEd more work than a PGCE?

The PGDipEd offers more master’s level credits than a PGCE. This means a slightly greater proportion of your time will be spent researching and writing about teaching and learning, as well as benefitting from spending a substantial amount of time in school on teaching practice. While there are more credits with the PGDipEd the academic challenge of both the PGDipEd and the PGCE is at the same level – both are postgraduate ‘Level 7’.

Can I get a bursary for the PGDipEd?

You may receive a government training bursary for the PGDipEd, as you would for a PGCE, depending on your degree, subject and classification.

How can I find out if my degree content is appropriate?

We advise you to read the information under Entry Requirements on our subject webpage carefully. You can get in touch with the subject tutor directly to check whether your degree content is acceptable if you are unsure about it.

I don’t have a GCSE in Maths / English Language / Science (grade C or above) – can I still apply?

For Secondary you need to have a GCSE in Maths and English (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification; for Primary you need to have a GCSE in Maths, English and science (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification.

If you are unsure whether your qualification in English / Maths / Science is equivalent to GCSE you need to contact Admissions before you apply and check as some courses (e.g. primary) will not consider applications without these.

Alternatively you might be advised to take an Equivalency Test if you do not meet the GCSE requirements.

What are the Professional Skills Tests?

If you are applying for a teacher training course, you will need to take the numeracy and literacy skills tests and ensure you have passed them both before the start of the course. Please see the Professional Skills Tests section of the Department for Education web site for more information on the core skills required by trainee teachers. 

How can I find out more about subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses?

There are subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses available in Chemistry, Maths, Languages, and Physics: see the Department for Education website for more detail. We offer Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses for both Mathematics and Physics (TBC for 2016). 

Do I need some school experience before I apply?

Some programmes/subjects require that you have some school experience before you start. For example you are expected to have completed at least one week of observation in a primary school before you apply for a place on the Primary programme. In any case it is strongly advised that you gain some experience. Having some school experience will:

  • help you with some of the interview questions as you will be able to relate your answers to real experience
  • help you at the beginning of the course as you will be able to start making links between your learning and practice in school to some extent
  • help you check that you are making the right decision to apply for teacher training

How do I apply? 

You need to apply online through the UCAS website. Applications start in the autumn for a start the following September and there is one intake per year. You can apply throughout the year although courses can get full very quickly. We therefore recommend you apply as early as possible.

Before completing your application form you are advised to have a look at the video guidance available on the UCAS website as it will help you to fill in your application correctly and, for example, write a good personal statement.

What is the time commitment needed?

Both routes are one-year full-time courses, with substantial time spent in placement schools. When on placement you can expect to be at school from before the school day starts until after it ends for meetings. You will also need to prepare lessons and carry out marking outside school hours. There are also a number of assignments and tasks to complete during the year.

What can I do in preparation for my studies and training?

You may be contacted before the start of the course and be provided with a list of suitable activities to carry out before the start of the course.

How much will it cost to train to become a teacher? Am I eligible for a government bursary?

Fees for 2015-16 are: £9,000 (UK/EU full-time), £14,414 (overseas full-time). Home/EU students will be eligible to apply for statutory support from their relevant funding agency.

Government training bursaries may be available depending on your subject and degree classification. See Equivalency Table available if you have an overseas degree for example and need to check whether you qualify for a government training bursary. For further information contact the School of Education directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.

I already have a DBS/police check, do I need to apply for a new one?

Unfortunately we cannot accept a DBS check provided for another purpose, so you will need to complete a criminal check via the University. 

What type of schools will my placements be at and where are they located?

On the University-led teacher training route (PGDipEd), we work with a range of schools (e.g. 5-7, 7-11, 5-11, First, Middle, 11-16, 11-18, faith, single sex and mixed schools) in and around Birmingham (e.g. Dudley, Walsall, Solihull). We support students wishing to enter either the Primary or Secondary sectors.

Schools enter a partnership with us, which ensures that you receive appropriate support and guidance with your training. You will be allocated a mentor while at school, who has been trained within our Partnership, in addition to your university tutor. A large number of schools have been working with us for many years ensuring continuity in our partnership and practices.

For School Direct this depends on the School Direct Lead Schools and their alliance of schools.

Why should I choose to train to teach with the University of Birmingham?

The University of Birmingham has repeatedly secured ‘Outstanding’ grades with Ofsted (national school and initial teacher training inspectorate) in all of its provision.  Ofsted, our External Examiners, Headteachers who employ out students and students themselves all consistently emphasise the quality of our initial teacher training.  Our employability statistics are amongst the very best in the country and a significant proportion of those who train with us complete their Master’s degree (Teaching Studies) and move on to middle or senior leadership in schools across the Midlands and further afield.  The quality of our ITE Partnership is praised repeatedly by schools themselves, by our External Examiners and by Ofsted.

Equal Opportunities

The School of Education is committed to equal opportunities in the access to and provision of education. For more information please see the following documents: 

School Mission Statement (PDF 23KB, opens new window)

Disability and Disability Equality Scheme
Race Equality

Related staff

Fees and funding

This course attracts Scholarships and Government bursaries of up to £30,000 (depending on qualifications) in line with the government’s priorities to increase the number of Physics teachers.

Fees for 2016-2017 are: £9,000 (UK/EU full-time), £14,140 (overseas full-time). 

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships
Home/EU students will be eligible to apply for statutory support from their relevant funding agency.

The Institute of Physics are awarding Teacher Training Scholarships to the most outstanding individuals, worth £30,000. There are a series of application deadlines throughout the year.

For further information contact the School directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.

Entry requirements

A degree or equivalent qualification in a relevant subject is required. Your honours degree should have significant physics content. If this is not the case then you might consider an subject knowledge enhancement course before starting at Birmingham. You will also need to demonstrate a breadth of commitment to sciences, to enable competence across the entire curriculum for 11-14 year old children.

All candidates also have to:

  • have a GCSE in English (grade C or above) or an equivalent qualification; alternatively you might be advised to take an Equivalency Test 
  • pass Professional Skills Tests in numeracy and literacy; please see the Professional Skills Tests section of the Department for Education web site for more information on the core skills required by trainee teachers
  • provide a satisfactory medical form 
  • complete an enhanced DBS/police check
  • complete a Declaration of Suitability to Teach
  • adhere to a Code of Professional Conduct and Fitness to Practise 

How to apply

Apply online through the UCAS Teacher Training Portal An early application gives more time for remediation if there are concerns about the quality of your candidature. Applications open on 27th October 2015.

UCAS code: F3X1

The UCAS website has a number of useful videos to assist you with your application such as this one on writing a personal statement 

Course Structure

The PGDipEd is divided into five phases: 

  1. Preparation (university-based with some activities in school) 
  2. School Placement 1 (seven week placement in school with tutor visit and one day at the university) 
  3. Development (university-based with some activities in school) 
  4. School Placement 2 (twelve week block placement with tutor visits and two university days);
  5. Completion (two further weeks in your second school and two weeks at the university).

The course includes the following areas of study: 

  • Subject-based teaching methods 
  • School-based work 
  • Whole-school issues

Subject-based teaching methods

You follow one main method programme, each of which occupies at least three half-days a week for five weeks in each of the autumn and spring terms and two weeks in the summer term. In some subjects a field course, involving work with children, may replace a number of single days in the year. Assessment is based on coursework undertaken during the year.  

School-based work  

School-based work is an important part of the programme, with students normally spending 24 weeks in schools. The combination of block practice and other periods of work in schools enables you to benefit from both carefully supported introductory work in different schools and the experience of spending a significant length of time in one school.

The final assessment of teaching is based on the spring/summer term school placement. Assessment is shared between University tutors, staff responsible for students in schools, and external examiners. All aspects of your contribution to the life of the school are taken into account, in particular the teaching of your main subject.

Prior to the start of the autumn term you are expected to undertake a preliminary period of observation in a primary/middle school near your home or lodgings. During the course supervised experience and practice are arranged in schools of various kinds across the 11–18 age range. We are fortunate in being able to work with a wide range of partnership schools, including mixed comprehensives, single-sex schools and sixth-form colleges. Many of the schools offer opportunities to work with pupils from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.  

Whole-school issues

This area of study is concerned with aspects of education that are of importance to all intending teachers, irrespective of their particular teaching subjects. It is designed to provide you with a breadth of awareness, depth of insight and development of skills through a range of themes studied by all students. Themes currently include Managing Inclusion, Monitoring and Assessment, and Pastoral Care and Citizenship.  

Tutoring and support

You will personally be allocated a university tutor who will guide and support you throughout your PGDipEd (QTS), along with a dedicated school mentor when on placement.


Once you have completed your PGDipEd (QTS) and successfully passed your induction year you may return to study with us on a part-time basis to complete a 60 credit dissertation and obtain an MA in Teaching Studies

Assessment methods

All students have to complete six modules, five of which require a written assignment. In addition all students complete two teaching placements and have to meet the Teachers' Standards for the Award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Extensive career support is available to and the majority of students obtain employement before they have completed their course. Many schools have a high regard for Birmingham Science: Physics PGDipEd (QTS) students and we have an excellent record of students gaining jobs at the end of the course. For 2013-2014 the employabilty rate was 100% and all graduates obtained employment in a teaching role. Many of our ex-students have been promoted to positions of responsibility, including Advanced Skills Teachers within the first 2 or 3 years.

Comments from former students


"In a constantly changing educational environment, my PGDipEd course has proved invaluable. In addition to enabling me to teach lessons to engage a wide range of students, I also completed the course with a solid foundation of pedagogy which enables me to adapt to the rapidly evolving educational landscape. The opportunity to explore wider educational issues with trainees and teachers from a broad background has also developed my interest and understanding of many of the issues within education. A strong esprit de corps along with personalised and accessible support made a tough and rigorous training year enjoyable. I strongly recommend the MEd too!"


"I thought we were assessed very well, our school mentors were dedicated and were able to comment on us holistically - where colleagues from other universities had to spend half their time in paperwork."